It's official: after weeks of deliberation, President Barack Obama has nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The choice of Garland, a centrist appeals court judge with a lot of cred among Republicans, makes it clear that the president is looking for a quick and indisputable confirmation.
Since Scalia's death, Republican leaders have threatened to block anyone nominated by Obama — probably to make the appointment a campaign issue for the upcoming election — but the non-controversial choice of Merrick will undoubtedly make that difficult.
So, now that we finally know who Obama selected and we can guess why, let's look into who Merrick Garland is. Here are five key things to know about the nominee:
You can't deny he's qualified. Merrick has nearly two decades of experience on the D.C. Circuit — a court that is widely viewed as the second-most powerful in the nation — and while at Harvard Law School, he clerked for Justice William Brennan. Garland spent a few years in the private sector as a partner in the multinational law firm Arnold and Porter. He also held senior positions in the Justice Department, including a leadership role in the department’s criminal division and a stint as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General.
He's not exactly a liberal progressive's dream. Though Garland is nowhere near as conservative as Justice Scalia was, he'll hardly be a rubber stamp for a liberal agenda. A 2010 examination of his decisions by SCOTUSBlog determined that “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” While his positions on gun control and abortion rights have liberals a little worried, he did side with the ACLU when it came to the privacy of citizens and government spying on us. Garland's record shows him to be a centrist in the truest sense.
Republicans have tried to hold him down before. In September 1995 — just before the election year — President Bill Clinton nominated Garland to the D.C. Circuit seat vacated by Abner J. Mikva. However, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to confirm his nomination until after the 1996 election. After winning the 1996 presidential election, Clinton renominated Garland and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate three months later in a 76-23 vote.
He's no spring chicken. At 63, Garland would be the oldest nominee for associate justice since President Nixon nominated the 64-year-old Lewis Powell in 1971, meaning — if confirmed – Garland likely won't park himself on the bench for three or four decades. Turns out, Garland was considered for a Supreme Court seat several years ago, but Obama decided to save him in case he needed a more moderate candidate for a hostile Republican Congress.
His wife's got the gavel in her blood, too. Garland's wife of nearly 30 years, Lynn Garland, has judiciary family ties as well: her grandfather, Samuel Irving Rosenman, was a justice of the New York Supreme Court and a special counsel to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. The couple have two daughters, both of whom graduated from Yale.
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